Dr. Daniel Villareal

Older bariatric patients on a weight-loss regimen are prone to losing muscle mass, and risk becoming frail. But a new clinical trial has shown how combining aerobic exercise and resistance training not only strengthens muscles, but may halt progression of – or even reverse – frailty. 

Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine sought to answer a question that grew from a prior study on preserving strength in older bariatric patients during weight loss: How a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training produced the best results when compared to using either mode separately. To that end, a subset of 47 participants from the original study agreed to undergo muscle biopsies before and after six months of lifestyle interventions to see how their muscle tissue was affected.

The six-month course included aerobic activity at approximately 65% of participants’ peak heart rates and resistance training on upper-body and lower-body weight-lifting machines. Afterward, the participants, aged 69 to 72, were found to have increased muscle protein synthesis and preserved muscle quality when compared to control groups, wrote study lead Dennis T. Villareal, M.D., Ph.D. Combined aerobic-resistance exercise was also associated with a lower expression of genes associated with muscle atrophy and the best preservation of muscle growth regulators, he wrote.

“Our findings indicated that despite negative energy balance from diet-induced weight loss, exercise training in older adults with obesity helps to preserve muscle mass, improve physical function and reduce frailty,” Villareal concluded in a statement.

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